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Is Apple's iPad Changing CRM and Business Intelligence?

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Posted November 22, 2010 By Drew Robb     Feedback

Some big-name companies, like MicroStrategy and SAP, are betting that the answer is 'yes.'

Tablets have been hyped for a decade without much buy in from the user community — until the iPad came along. Recent IT conferences have featured a growing number of techies tricked out with Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) new toy, most of them extolling its virtues.

And now we are beginning to see companies such as MicroStrategy, SAP, QlikTech and Actuate add this device as a sales tool or bring to market iPad functionality to their customer relationship management (CRM), business intelligence and other enterprise software offerings.

Tim Hickernell, lead analyst for Info-Tech Research Group, sees businesses beginning to use the iPad in sales, CRM, business intelligence (BI) and marketing. In the retail segment, for instance, it allows the sales representative to accomplish order taking and inventory checks, and also gives them access to the product catalog in a rich media format. In field sales, iPads add sizzle to product demonstrations.

"Product demos incorporating 3D benefit the most from the iPad, such as medical and pharmaceutical demos in the field by sales reps," said Hickernell. "On the CRM side, field service can log service calls, or iPads can be deployed as self-service kiosks for a variety of CRM needs."

iPads seem to be gaining ground in high-value customer segments too. High wealth accounts such as major investors or buyers of expensive real estate can be given an iPad as a sales promotion, preloaded with an appropriate portfolio of investment opportunities and historical performance or even pre-load a high value real estate portfolio for prospective buyers, along with information about the destination city the prospect is moving to, said Hickernell.

However, he considers business intelligence to be less of a forum for the Apple tablet.

"BI is probably less of an iPad home run than other CRM or commerce usage scenarios," said Hickernell. "But as older BI interaction models, like simple click, evolve into gesture-based interaction models, then touch tablets like iPad will become useful data visualization presentation platforms."

The latest Gartner forecast predicts worldwide tablet sales of 19.5 million this year, almost all of them iPads. That will surge to 54.8 million in 2011 and 208 million units in 2014 — that's 10-fold growth in five years.

"Individuals are willing to buy these devices themselves, so enterprises must be ready to support them," said Gartner analyst Stephen Prentice. "The iPad has the potential to be hugely disruptive to the business models and markets of many enterprises."


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